IBM and the EU have launched a joint research initiative to develop new virtualization and grid technologies for cloud computing, which will enable the sharing of IT services.
Known as RESERVOIR (Resources and Services Virtualization without Barriers), the initiative has been funded to the tune of US$25 million "to explore the deployment and management of IT services across different administrative domains, IT platforms and geographies."
Last year, IBM began a company-wide cloud computing initiative across its server, software, services, and R&D units. Then in November, IBM unveiled plans for "Blue Cloud," a series of cloud computing products that would allow organizations to make wider and more efficient use of the computing resources in their data centers.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, cloud computing is an emerging approach to shared infrastructure in which large pools of systems are linked together to provide IT services. Essentially, it is where computing is moved away from a particular computer or server, to a "cloud" of computers.
The theory is that users of cloud computing only need to worry about the computer service being requested, because the back-end resources are distributed and therefore hidden. This pool of computer resources is managed by software.
The RESERVOIR initiative aims to develop technologies to support a service-based online economy, where resources and services are transparently provisioned and managed. The IBM Haifa Research Lab will lead this computing project, but other members of the initiative include SAP Research, Sun Microsystems, Thales, and the University College of London.
Any resulting technology or services will be built on open standards, and would be used to "serve IBM, partners and customers in the development of modern data centers with quantified and significant improvements in service delivery productivity, quality, availability and cost."
A typical use of RESERVOIR could be to simplify the delivery of online entertainment.
As more and more television and movie content goes online, the RESERVOIR project would work, for example, to enable a network of service providers to host different media. Any time additional services or infrastructure are needed, they could be rapidly supplied through the cloud by one of the various RESERVOIR-powered sites. For example, if there is large demand for a show hosted by a particular site, it could dynamically 'hire' additional servers and services from other sites that are not being used.
"You can think of cloud computing as the Internet operating system for business and RESERVOIR as pioneering technologies that will enable people to access the cloud of services in an efficient and cost effective way," said Dr Yaron Wolfsthal, senior manager of System Technologies at the IBM Research Lab in Haifa, Israel, in a statement.
"With demand for IT resources hard to predict, service providers usually over-provision resources in order to support peak demands and ensure continuous service availability and quality, while other systems run at lower capacity," said Dr Wolfsthal. "But with RESERVOIR, our aim is to provide cloud-computing-based technologies that will enable the borderless delivery of IT services based on actual demands to keep costs competitive."
Specifically, it seems that RESERVOIR will investigate new capabilities for the deployment of commercial service scenarios that cannot currently be supported. These capabilities would be made possible by developing new virtualization and grid technologies.